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 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 1:00 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

The Hunger Games Catching Fire (2013) - 10/10
In a rarity for a second film, "Catching Fire" takes everything good from the first film and leaves behind all that was not so good. The shaky cam that drove me nuts is gone and the music is much more prominent. Both are thanks to a new director. "Catching Fire" moves forward at a much faster pace this time and the games are much more action-packed. If you have read the book, you know how terrifying some of the obstacles in the games are this time around. They were even harder to watch in the film. Each of them is rendered with convincing accuracy such that the games are quite thrilling. The new games bring with them new interesting characters as well. Each of them is cast quite well to capture the individuality of the combatants.

Musically, I found "Catching Fire" to be much stronger this time. I could tell that the director of the first "Hunger Games" film wanted music to take a back seat so I only noticed a few themes the first time. For "Catching Fire" James Newton Howard returns, giving his themes from the first film some much-needed fleshing out. We also get a beautiful new love theme for Katniss and Peeta that works very well. There is some solid action/horror music for the games that has the needed ferocity as well as some hints of Newton Howard's previous work in some beautiful string music. I was also quite impressed by a few of the songs in the end credits. Usually they make me want to leave the theater right away but the Coldplay and Of Monsters and Men songs were quite nice and very fitting.

If you are reading this I suspect you have come to enjoy the characters that make "The Hunger Games" so much fun. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson both show that they have grown as actors since the first film. I was also quite struck by how Willow Shields shows as Prim this time around. Though she has a short time on screen, she has quite a presence. Sam Clafin also makes a great Finnick. He has the pretty boy look and arrogance to fit his character and a solid presence as well.

"Catching Fire" moves along at a brisk pace and looks gorgeous for most of it. The dull colors of the districts are countered nicely by the bright colors of the capitol. The new arena for the games is beautifully shot in the jungles of Hawaii and pops off the screen in the IMAX version. The entire section in the games was shot with an IMAX camera and it works really well. I don't think any other film before this had as much continuous IMAX footage. When I left the theater I was quite satisfied by what I saw and very excited for the third film, which will be broken into two parts. It is time to start reading the third book in preparation.

 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 1:19 PM   
 By:   Francis   (Member)

7 Psychopaths 8/10

Nice cast, nice concept, just a tad overlong for my taste, but had a fun time seeing this.

White House Down 5/10

Die Hard clone with Tatum and Foxx that is beyond absurd; it had cringeworthy moments but also some ok action sequences, plus it was fun to see James Woods take on the bad guy role. I expected more comedy for the duo but got lame PG jokes instead. Not a film I plan to see ever again but for a Roland Emmerich film not too bad.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 1:57 PM   
 By:   Michael24   (Member)

42 (2013) - 4/5

I typically don't watch many movies about sports or sports figures, because they generally all follow the same pattern and have all the same kind of scenes. 42 handles things a bit differently, chucking a lot of stuff you expect out the window. For example, there is no laborious first act spent following Jackie Robinson through his childhood and seeing how he first got into baseball. Instead, the film starts with him already as an adult and playing professionally. I liked that it basically just presented us with a very straight-forward view of how he made it into the major league, without bogging us down with repeated scenes of emotional discord, "I don't know if I can do this" moments, etc. The one scene that does bring the pent-up emotions to the forefront, though, is powerfully effective because we haven't been beaten over the head with similar scenes a dozen times prior. All of the lead performers do a good job, and Harrison Ford deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination. He was fantastic and totally disappeared into his role.

 
 Posted:   Nov 23, 2013 - 3:01 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

Thanks for the review Michael. What you mentioned about 42 is quite good and makes me want to check it out now smile

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2013 - 11:57 PM   
 By:   Michael24   (Member)

Oblivion (2013) - 2/5

An intriguing and entertaining first hour, followed by a second hour muddled with too many twists and turns, to the point of confusion and boredom. On the plus side, terrific special effects and production design, and another great performance by Tom Cruise. A shame. Could have been really good.

Thanks for the review Michael. What you mentioned about 42 is quite good and makes me want to check it out now smile

Hope you enjoy it. smile

 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2013 - 8:48 AM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

Slaughterhouse-Five: 4-10

Never read the book and only revisiting this film for the first time in many years. I seem to remember Slaughterhouse-Five being highly acclaimed at the time of it's release. It's only thinly disguised as a Sci Fi film, and it fails as one because it really has nothing to say for itself.

The lead character doe's nothing in this film but observe his world and his surroundings. The different set pieces amount to nothing particularly interesting nor are they ever enlightening. Worst yet the supporting characters are over the top, and annoying for no particular reason.

I never felt the happiness, pain, or horror the character was supposed to be feeling during his life's experiences. I got nothing out of it. Thus I have to give this film a low rating.

 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2013 - 11:58 AM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

I can't write this for my blog because I didn't finish the movie but I wanted to see what others thought about this one.

Byzantium (2012) - No rating, didn't finish
I made it an hour into this film before finally giving up. Doesn't happen very often but it completely lost my interest even though I was enjoying it on my dad's larger TV. The first few scenes were quite intriguing then I got into the back story of the characters and I lost interest.
I was also quite annoyed by how one of the main characters has supposedly been around for 200 years and hasn't figured out how to do anything other than living as a prostitute. She appears quite intelligent and apparently never thought to start up her own brothel until what we see in the film.

If anyone was able to finish this one, did you enjoy it?

 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2013 - 12:59 PM   
 By:   mastadge   (Member)

If anyone was able to finish this one, did you enjoy it?

It's an ambitious failure that falls short of being either a success or even really an enjoyable mess, but I at least admired its ambition. Both leads are good enough that I was carried along. Also, and more importantly, it so very nearly worked for me similarly to how some other plot- and/or narrative-troubled movies do. For instance, Ridley Scott's movies (and Guillermo del Toro's, for that matter, among others) often don't quite work for me in terms of smart plotting and pacing, but (often) hold together for me thanks to their visual intelligence -- they're filmmakers far more focused on visual storytelling than on traditional storytelling, and they have the chops to make that work. Here, Jordan so very nearly succeeds in letting his capable actresses and his themes dealing with family and misogyny carry the whole movie despite its extremely troubled plot. But not quite. It's an interesting but only sporadically absorbing misfire. I do wish I'd rewatched Jordan's other supernatural flicks (Company of Wolves, Interview w/ Vampire, Ondine) again before watching this.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2013 - 1:32 PM   
 By:   Ado   (Member)

Ron P:

Re: "Overall, a really good film." YIKES! I simply could NOT get into that movie, and found James Franco, an actor I normally like, soooooooooooooo unlikeable that it derailed the film for me, which was very disappointing, because I honestly wanted to like it.


Scary how much we agree much of the time Ron Hardcastle.

I really disliked James Franco in that picture, he carries himself too much with this thing that makes me feel like he is winking at the camera, saying under his breath 'hey look I am acting'. Of course the picture itself is poorly constructed, and way too much CGI work. Some other miscast roles, and I really did not care in the end about anything that happened. I am amazed this picture was successful.

 
 Posted:   Nov 25, 2013 - 7:12 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

If anyone was able to finish this one, did you enjoy it?

It's an ambitious failure that falls short of being either a success or even really an enjoyable mess, but I at least admired its ambition. Both leads are good enough that I was carried along. Also, and more importantly, it so very nearly worked for me similarly to how some other plot- and/or narrative-troubled movies do. For instance, Ridley Scott's movies (and Guillermo del Toro's, for that matter, among others) often don't quite work for me in terms of smart plotting and pacing, but (often) hold together for me thanks to their visual intelligence -- they're filmmakers far more focused on visual storytelling than on traditional storytelling, and they have the chops to make that work. Here, Jordan so very nearly succeeds in letting his capable actresses and his themes dealing with family and misogyny carry the whole movie despite its extremely troubled plot. But not quite. It's an interesting but only sporadically absorbing misfire. I do wish I'd rewatched Jordan's other supernatural flicks (Company of Wolves, Interview w/ Vampire, Ondine) again before watching this.


That's funny because I really like a lot of Ridley Scott's films. But it all depends on how well you are absorbed into the characters. I didn't feel like there was much going for Byzantium besides Saoirse Ronan. I was more interested in her character but it seemed to be all about her family so it didn't grab me.

 
 Posted:   Nov 28, 2013 - 2:29 PM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

I did get to watch 42 last night with my dad and I quite enjoyed it. It was nice to share a baseball film with him since he was the one who always took me to baseball games as a kid.

The Book Thief (2013) - 8/10
There is something magical about the right kind of story. As a child I was drawn into other worlds for days on end, reading all I could get my hands on. The wonders we find in those pages that can transport us away from the harsh reality in which we live. "The Book Thief" captures this child-like wonder beautifully. Sadly, the film is not all lighthearted fun. The story shows some of the darkness of Nazi Germany and the horrors of war. John Williams' beautiful music helps highlight the beauty and awe present. The lush melodies transport us away from the horrors even if only for a few moments. In the same way, the smiles Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) displays when reading a book help us escape with her from this dark world where books are burned and Jews hunted and killed.

The title here alludes to how Liesel borrows books from a wealthy neighbor in order to find something to read in a town where most of her neighbors' parents are illiterate and many books have been burned. In a poignant scene early in the film we watch as Liesel's adopted father admits to her that he is not so good at reading and that they shall have to help each other on this journey. The value of literacy and the power it brings becomes clear early on and continues to run as a theme throughout. I found it beautiful to watch the childish adventures Liesel embarks on with her friend Rudy, as they laugh and explore the world together. They each provide convincing performances signifying their acting talents.

Some might find it a bit overwhelming to watch another movie about Nazi Germany, especially one that highlights the brutality it brought. I've concluded that it was necessary to include such scenes in the film because it helps drive home how essential books were to Liesel and the other characters in the book. At one point later in the film, Rudy catches Liesel stealing a book and asks her why she would steal a book when people are starving. Why not steal some food? He asks. At this point it becomes clear that to her there are more important things than simply surviving. She needs to experience the worlds inside books in order to truly live. In an age where I can have access to hundreds of books on a Kindle it is easy to forget just how valuable a book is. If you can sit through some of the darker sections that accompany Liesel on her journey you will share her wonder as she escapes into books one by one.

 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2013 - 8:57 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Sirusjr: Re: I can't write this for my blog because I didn't finish the movie but I wanted to see what others thought about this one.

Byzantium (2012) - No rating, didn't finish
I made it an hour into this film before finally giving up. Doesn't happen very often but it completely lost my interest even though I was enjoying it on my dad's larger TV. The first few scenes were quite intriguing then I got into the back story of the characters and I lost interest.


Well, before I get into what I was going to write, I must say that I wish that when they blank out a chunk because of a spoiler that it wouldn't hit us in the face when we try to Reply to it. Good to know -- in future I'll just paste what I want from what we can see rather than choose the Reply option! Plus it's interesting to know that if we don't mind a spoiler we can bypass the block to see what we missed.

Here's what I wanted to write about "Byzabntium." It happens to be at the very top of my Netflix queue, because I recently saw its trailer when I watched another film and also because it has Jonny Lee Miller, an actor I've followed since the very start of his career. But the above comments will probably lower my expectations. Now if I can just forget what I read when I opened it about xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx … Just kidding -- added that bogus spoiler myself!

 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2013 - 9:13 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

As for the last movie I watched part deux, yesterday, with a couple of hours to kill before I left to have Thanksgiving dinner with a few very close friends, I decided to watch my Blu-ray of Kevin Reynold's delightful "The Count of Monte Cristo," and turned up the volume to enjoy Edward Shearmur's music in surround. And even though, between the DVD and Blu-ray, I had already seen that movie several times, I still enjoyed it a lot this latest time. Sure, it's a fantasy with a satisfying ending, but it stands up quite nicely after several years.

 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2013 - 11:00 AM   
 By:   Sirusjr   (Member)

Yeah I am a big fan of Johnny Lee Miller but his role is pretty small in the film from what I could tell. I get enough of him in Elementary.

 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2013 - 12:31 PM   
 By:   mastadge   (Member)

Watched a lot since my last update. I think this is most of them:

I watched Monsters, Inc. and then watched Monsters University. To my surprise I think the prequel is the stronger of the two, though neither of them is top-tier Pixar.

I watched The Wicker Man in its new "Final Cut" (I'd never seen it in any cut) and was surprised by how effective it was -- I'd put off watching it for so long because I strongly suspected it wouldn't be my cup of tea. Also watched The Wicker Tree, which was awful on every level.

Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. Of the two, WHD is way goofier -- but OHF takes itself almost comically seriously, with huge patriotic anthems blaring every time a character so much as walks down a hallway. Butler comes off as a much more credible action hero than Tatum, but has almost no charisma. The action in OHF packs more of a punch than in WHD. They're two very different flavors, each preposterous in its own way, and I think it comes down more or less to a draw. My own tastes might give a very slight edge to OHF.

Watched Soderbergh's Side Effects, of which the first half was much better than the last; Fish Story, an almost excellent offbeat flick that I'd recommend; and Crying Freeman, which I watched because I like Christophe Gans, and which turned out to be awful. Watch Black Gold (or Day of the Falcon depending where you are) just to hear Horner's score in context; it was less awful than I feared it would be but very forgettable.

Thor: The Dark World was a sporadically entertaining disappointment. So far Marvel's entire Phase 2 has been a big letdown.

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel is a very very funny movie about, well, you know. Byzantium has been discussed above. A number of my friends ran the Philly marathon recently, so I was inspired to revisit Run, Fatboy, Run, which was less funny than I remembered, though I still like Pegg and find him very funny. R.I.P.D. was less bad than the critical and popular reception would lead you to believe but not good either. Finally took the new BD release as an excuse to watch Peter Weir's Fearless, which was quite good. And finally saw last year's Grabbers, the Irish Tremors, which succeeds in paying homage to its influences while being itself and ends up being very amusing. (And why have we gotten releases of so many of Christian Henson's middling scores while the lovely, playful Grabbers remains unreleased? I might import the BD just for the isolated score!)

As for TV, I watched the first set of Foyle's War, which was very good, the first season of Once Upon a Time, which was often not very good but had just enough going for it to keep me watching, and am currently watching Falcón, which like Foyle is one of those series that's really just a set of 90-minute TV movies. Oh, and in October the first series of American Horror Story, which I started off not liking, and then came to like, and then came stopped liking when the house became a little too haunted, and then returned to liking very much. It doesn't quite come together as well as it should but it's still probably the best long-form horror programming I've seen.

 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2013 - 8:12 PM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

This afternoon I received 4 boxes, 1 from SAE, 2 from Amazon, and 1 from somewhere else. Included were 2 CDs ("Those Calloways" and John Riley's "Film Music"); the final 3 seasons of "Dexter" on Blu-ray, completing my collection of all 8 seasons; the elaborate "BOND 50" Blu-ray set; and the Blu-ray of the Merchant Ivory "The Remains of the Day," a favorite movie for me, so, not surprisingly, it was the one I put on first.

I'm a Merchant Ivory fan, with "Maurice" my favorite and "The Remains of the Day" second, and watching it on Blu-ray was revelatory. It's crystal clear and those British vistas are gorgeous. And while it's too slow for many, I've never had a problem with it. Frankly, I only intended to watch a little of it to see how it looked in HD, but couldn't stop watching until it was over. Loved it all over again, and was reminded why it has my second favorite Richard Robbins soundtrack (after "Maurice"). One nit to pick: At the end of the closing credits, it cuts off the last note of the closing credits music, but I want to try that segment on other players to see if it's a glitch in the Sony Blu-ray or if my player jumped the gun a bit early. Incidentally, while I didn't play the commentary track today, I've heard it before, and Emma Thompson is such a delight as she giggles her way through it.

 
 Posted:   Dec 3, 2013 - 12:16 PM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

Transformers: Dark Side Of the Moon- 7-10

This outing was mildly entertaining. Though once again over long and repetitive. At least this time out they had a plot, though it was quite a ridiculous story.

Never dawned on me before how much the characters are like cartoons in this series. I don't mean the Transformers, but the humans. They could just as easily be CGI personalities themselves. Goofy, comedic and over the top. For a super model I was impressed with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley acting skills. At least for what was required of her.

Once again the over commercialization of these movies are a huge distraction for me. Every time I saw the "Target" transformer or the "Jimmy Johnson # 48 Nascar" Transformer it just took me out of the picture.

Viewed it since it was on Netflix, but I don't imagine I will ever revisit this film again.

Silent Running- 9-10

Unless you grew up in the 60's or 70's I don't imagine your going to get this film. It's environmental tale may seem lame but it was of dire importance at the time, and continues still today. (and its had an impact)

I found the over all execution of the story compelling and quite convincing. Especially the ruse regarding Lowell's "damaged" ship and the conversation with the others in the fleet and their attempts to rescue him.

Huey, Dewey, and Louie were brilliantly conceived and one can see where Lucas got the idea for R2D2 from. Right down to their sense of self consciousness and quirks.

I could nitpick some things. Why did the robots have a tendency to disobey commands? How long could the generators possibly light the last dome? What about over growth if the forrest did survive? Even with those looming questions it remains one of the very best science fictions films because it is a science fiction film "about something".

Barbarian Queen- 1-10

Sometimes a trashy "B" movie can be an entertaining distraction. Even the T&A couldn't save this one. Totally lost interest 20 minutes in. And that was 19 minutes more than I should have watched.

 
 Posted:   Dec 3, 2013 - 5:52 PM   
 By:   DeputyRiley   (Member)

(revisit)

X-Men: First Class (2011) -- 9/10

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 3, 2013 - 6:58 PM   
 By:   Michael24   (Member)

The Iceman (2013) - 3/5

A dark, somber film based on the true story of Richard Kuklinski, a mob hitman and serial killer. Good production design captures the various eras (60s-80s) well, and it's anchored by a great performance from Michael Shannon. Ample support from Winona Ryder and Chris Evans, who is virtually unrecognizable in his role as a fellow killer. (Seeing Captain America drop F-bombs and chop up bodies is quite a jarring sight. LOL!) However, the story feels as if it glosses over -- or entirely skips -- a lot of material that would have worked toward the development of its characters and situations. It's also jumpy, abruptly changing eras with only Shannon's ever-changing hair style and facial hair to clue you in. It's not perfect, and certainly not an easy watch with its grimness, but it's technically well made and very well acted.

 
 Posted:   Dec 4, 2013 - 1:54 PM   
 By:   solium   (Member)

The Book Thief 7-10

A decent film that never really feels more ambitious than a Hallmark movie of the week. Well cast, the performances were adequate but a bit reserved. The film moves along at a leisurely pace yet almost every scene felt rushed and underdeveloped. The cinematography was fine but rather straight forward and plain. I expect more visually from a motion picture film. John William's score worked well, yet remained understated. It's frightening how many reviews called his score over the top or syrupy. It's most certainly neither.

I liked a lot of the ideas in the film and each one would have made for an interesting film by themselves. But the problem arises that there are too many ideas. It feels like five stories in one, and the film suffers over all because of this.

I don't blame the film for being to sterile however, this isn't about the horrors of war, it's a small personal story about the life of a young girl during war time. There is a difference. This is why it was a mistake to toss in every conceivable trappings of Nazi Germany into this film. It should have been a much longer epic if that was the intent.

The inclusion of "Death" as our narrator (while apparently important in the book) is never poignant here, and a huge distraction. Yeah we're all gonna die, ha, ha Death always win in the end! What's the point? Worse yet "Death" ruins the climax of the story by telling us the "shocking" resolution right before it happens. (I suppose this was done to soften the blow for the younger audience. But I can't imagine this film would attract a young audience to begin with.)

The most annoying inclusion though admittedly a minor split second scene was an in your face product placement shot for an Apple computer! In a film that takes place 99.9% percent of the time in the 1940's!!!

I didn't really go into detail what I liked about the film because I feel Sirusjr did a good job in that respect and I generally agree with his positive assessments. This is why I gave the film a generally high rating in spite of my own review.

One last note, I really don't understand why this got a PG-13 rating. At best it's a PG film.

 
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